Ryder hopeful Rose starts strongly

Justin Rose has taken another step towards winning his first Ryder Cup cap - but only after a night when he wondered if he was ever going to get to sleep.

Justin Rose has taken another step towards winning his first Ryder Cup cap - but only after a night when he wondered if he was ever going to get to sleep.

Although Dutchman Rolf Muntz was the star of the opening round of the KLM Open in Holland with a six under par 64, Rose is among those chasing him hard.

Having pulled out of the FedEx Cup first leg in America to try to clinch his debut, the world number 12 had a bogey-free 67.

"Now I'm looking forward to an afternoon nap," said Rose, joint ninth at the US PGA two weeks ago.

"It must have been three o'clock when I got to sleep - I had a coffee at dinner and there must have been rocket fuel in it.

"I wasn't as rested as I would have liked, but I got away with it. I didn't play particularly well, but I guess I managed it well.

"When you are a pro you learn how to make the most of your game when you are not tip-top.

"I'm really pleased - I knew coming here that there would be a lot of attention on the Ryder Cup, but I just had to try to get into the mindset of playing tournament golf."

Starting on the back nine he birdied the 11th, fourth and sixth and during monsoon-like conditions over the closing stretch scrambled brilliantly to avoid losing ground.

Former British amateur champion Muntz, no longer a European Tour card holder and forced to qualify for the event, was in the first group out, so avoided the worst of the weather.

He still had to capitalise, of course, but did with six birdies and commented: "It's awesome playing in front of your home crowd and it was a gorgeous round - the kind you plan on paper and it actually works out."

Rose lies eighth on the Ryder Cup table and therefore needs to avoid three players going past him by the end of next week.

The only one of the leading candidates to score better than him was Dane Soren Hansen, currently in the 10th and last automatic spot a mere £213 ahead of German Martin Kaymer.

Hansen, who made a late decision to enter the tournament because of the cup situation, hit back from a double bogey on the ninth with what he called a "spectacular" inward 30 and shares second place with England's John Bickerton.

Oliver Wilson, lying ninth in the race and playing with Rose, led when he turned in 31, but in the end had to settle for a one under 69.

Kaymer could do no better than 72, while defending champion Ross Fisher and Nick Dougherty, currently 13th and 14th, both double-bogeyed the ninth and 10th in rounds of 70 and 73 respectively.

Dougherty, last week's runner-up in Sweden, lost a ball with only his second shot of the day and was disgusted with his day's work.

In days gone by Darren Clarke might have been in a similar mood after getting to four under and finishing two under.

But those bogeys came in the worst of the weather on two of the toughest holes and the Ulsterman, 40 last week, still entertains hopes of a wild card from captain Nick Faldo.

Competition is hotting up, though, with Paul Casey starting the FedEx Cup play-offs with a 66 in New Jersey.

The 562-yard seventh, where he ran up a six, was an absolute brute into the wind. Welshman Stuart Manley took 10 and then German Marcel Siem had two penalty drops in a septuple bogey 12.

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